Incoming new Rangers chief executive James Bisgrove has reassured supporters the club’s transfer budget will not be affected by whether Champions League group stage qualification is secured.

Managing director Stewart Robertson is standing down during a summer of change at Ibrox, with Bisgrove becoming the club’s new CEO.

The 38-year-old is relishing the challenge of transforming the club’s player recruitment model – and says there will be money to spend this summer on reinforcements.

“For me, it’s a big responsibility and immense challenge to step into the shoes of chief executive of Rangers,” he told Sky Sports.

“I’ve been with the club for four years now and transitioned into the CEO role. Being around the club for as long as I have, I know the size of the club, what it means for the 50,000 here on a matchday. Our research tells us we have four or five million Rangers fans around the world.

“The summer is an important one. We’ve spoken about the transformation from a player recruitment point of view. We’re also going to be looking very carefully at what we do off the pitch both in terms of leadership positions and some of the infrastructure here at Ibrox.

“It will be a busy summer. The immediate focus is on the summer recruitment plan and aligned to that our player trading model.

“We are excited by the plan, we know there is work to be done in order for Rangers to be competitive next season. We know the ambition has got to be Rangers winning trophies, competitive on the European stage.

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“How do we set ourselves apart? It is to be really clear in terms of the plan for the summer and take good decision after good decision after good decision. Player recruitment is not an art or exact science but we feel really confident about the recruitment staff, the scouting team. It’s been a long time in the planning and through from now until September getting a squad in place for pre-season is our absolute focus at the moment.”

Rangers are set to finish second in the Scottish Premiership, which means entering the Champions League third qualifying round.

That would mean entering a league path alongside third-placed teams from France and Portugal – currently Marseille and Braga – as well as the second-placed teams from Serbia, the Netherlands and Austria – currently Zeleznicar Pancevo, Ajax and LASK.

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Bisgrove says the squad will be in competitive shape to tackle the task of qualifying for the group stages.

“We are already active and advanced in our discussions,” he said. “There will be announcements and news for supporters soon but at the same time we need to have patience given the window is open until September.

“I know the manager would like to return for pre-season at the start of July and have the squad there to work with so that we hit the ground running in terms of both domestic football and Champions League qualification.

“In an ideal world, that squad is there for pre-season but recruitment isn’t a linear process so we may need to bide or time with some of those decisions. We are on it. We’re not holding back and we will hopefully be well-placed come July.”

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Highlights from the Scottish Premiership match between Hibernian and Rangers

But will there two budgets – one if the club qualifies for the CL and one if it doesn’t?

“No, that’s not the case,” responded Bisgrove. “At the moment we’ve got a plan that has been presented by the manager, backed up by the recruitment team and that plan has been endorsed by the chairman, the board and the investors.

“The funding of that plan is in place. The club also needs to be prepare to operate in the player trading model which means at the right moments, the right offers, the right club and if it makes sense for the player, we’ll listen to those offers. A lot of facets have to fall in place. At the moment, we have a clear plan for the summer which is to start next season on the strongest possible footing.”

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Bisgrove, who graduated from Cardiff University with a Business and Marketing degree in 2006, says the wheels are in motion to appoint a new sporting director. He has been working closely alongside chairman John Bennett and the rest of the board while Michael Beale is ‘very clear’ in what the club’s strategy is from next season until 2025.

“The immediate focus is on the summer recruitment plan and aligned to that our player trading model,” Bisgrove said.

“We are excited by the plan, we know there is work to be done in order for Rangers to be competitive next season. We know the ambition has got to be Rangers winning trophies, competitive on the European stage.

“How do we set ourselves apart? It is to be really clear in terms of the plan for the summer and take good decision after good decision after good decision. Player recruitment is not an art or exact science but we feel really confident about the recruitment staff, the scouting team. It’s been a long time in the planning and through from now until September getting a squad in place for pre-season is our absolute focus at the moment.”

Bisgrove arrived at Ibrox in 2019 to oversee the commercial growth and modernisation of the club’s marketing and digital activities – and the former sponsorship manager at UEFA feels now is the right time to take up the position as CEO.

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Highlights of the Cinch Scottish Premiership Old Firm match between Rangers and Celtic

“I feel ready,” he added. “I’ve got good people around me in terms of the board, John Bennett, the Park family are still on the board and the rest of the team that are in leadership positions at the club. It’s not stepping into Ibrox for the first time.

“The last four years have included some brilliant ups but also some disappointing moments. I’ve seen and felt those highs and lows. I recognise how much the club matters to the supports in those different moments. Can you ever be truly ready for everything Scottish football and Rangers will throw at you? We’ll see but I’m feeling positive, focused, energised and ready to get to work.”

Bisgrove exclusive – what the new CEO also told Sky Sports

Allan McGregor, Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent
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Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent are among five senior players who will leave Rangers this summer

Will it be transfer fees, free transfers, bigger wages?

“The manager’s plan is very specific on the types of players and in the positions he wants in terms of the evolution of the squad and also creating future value in the squad. It’s probably not a one size fits all as you might see there are players we bring in that are coming to the end of their contract but there also might be players that we’re prepared to pay a transfer fee for if we believe it’s right for the squad, Michael and the future value. There may also be players we bring in on loan that make an impact.

“You won’t see a very siloed strategy. You’ll probably see us be quite open in terms of how we approach the market this summer.”

What concerns are there that the club can’t get the quality of player it needs to be champions again?

Rangers' Allan McGregor is among the players out of contract at the end of the season
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Rangers’ Allan McGregor is among the players out of contract

“I don’t think there’s concerns at the moment. There’s a growing optimism with an ambition that’s backed up by the confidence of the plan that’s in place. The board and the group of investors are prepared to back that plan.

“There’s also a lot of excitement and optimism in some of the core members of the squad. You don’t have to look back too far to the January transfer window, Nico Raskin and Todd Cantwell joining and the impact they’ve made on the team both in terms of technical quality and their energy.

“I feel in the conversations I’ve had with Michael, the scouting team and the board, there’s a really strong core there that Michael believes in but we know we need to add to it to be competitive because that’s the ambition of the club and what the supporters expect.”

Will players come in for one or two seasons before being sold to get money?

“That’s a fundamental component of a player trading model and it’s a positive thing and a complement to the squad and players when they’re in demand. Where you’ve got clubs who possibly have higher resources in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe that aspire to bid for the players or have those conversations.

“We welcome those conversations but at the same time we will always work in alignment with the manager in terms of his plan for the squad and who he wants to keep. It will always be the manager’s decision.

“The way that we will work is there will always be a collaboration and a discuss. If that moment arises in the future that’ll be a dialogue with the chairman, the manager and we’ll come to the right decision for the club.”

How important is it the player trading model continues in the way it is going at the moment?

Rangers captain James Tavernier celebrates scoring to make it 1-0
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Rangers captain James Tavernier is sticking around

“It’s really important. It’s a fundamental pillar of our business model alongside the season ticket revenue, European football revenue, commercial revenue, player trading is fundamental for us to operate with the best possible business model.

“We’re really fortunate that last season we had a record revenue, we returned to profitability and that gives us that footing and that financial sustainability to kick on.

“Player trading, we’ve got to get it right. It’s important for the success of the team but it’s also integral for the club’s business model as it is it for all the other top calibre clubs across Europe.”

How important is it that the club isn’t under pressure to keep a key player?

Michael Beale has yet to beat Celtic as Rangers manager
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Michael Beale has only beaten Celtic once as manager

“We’ve got to be prepared to have conversations with clubs from a player trading perspective in the best interest of the club. We’ll be connected to the market, we’ll have that dialogue but also always lean on the manager in terms of what he wants to do in terms of what’s right for the team.

“We also may bring a business perspective to that conversation and come to an alignment together. The ambition and strategy is about creating value in the squad and if that works, and is optimal, then the natural thing in the future, interest, bids and offers will come for players.

“At the moment, that is a secondary consideration because this summer we’ve got to get the recruitment right. We’re feeling positive, optimistic because there’s a plan there and we’re starting now to move through and already make some really good inroads in terms of some of the conversations that we’re having.”

Overhaul of youth section

“You will always see with Rangers the investment in terms of the talent development in both the men’s and women’s game. This season the Rangers Academy have had 12 first-team appearances and the way that Michael and his staff think and operate, their background in coaching is always going to be who’s the next Nathan Patterson? If you look at Alex Lowry, Leon King, Adam Devine, 16-year-old Bailey Rice, Aaron Lyle, we feel we’ve really got a strong conveyor belt of talent in terms of the academy but making sure they’ve got that pathway is so important.

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Aberdeen

“The manager’s mindset and the conversations I’ve had is making sure that pathway is there but only if and when the players are ready because when you’re out that in front of 50,000 at Ibrox the shirt can be heavy. The character needs to be there as well as the technical ability.

“The talent that we’ve got in the academy, the strategy behind the B team, the development of all of the different age groups is something that is a core part of our football strategy and something I will continue to drive and I’m sure the new sporting director will.”

Is there potential for more investment in youth?

“The investment is already there. What we need to strike the balance of is, players coming in and out and having that pathway through all the different age groups. But at the same time being prepared to recruit at that academy, B team level. For example, Zak Lovelace joined the club from Millwall not long ago and the talent he’s got.

“We will have an academy recruitment strategy but we’ll also have a very strong player development strategy so we’ve got the two in parallel.”

What does improved supporter interactions look like?

“That is going to be a real key focus for me because the connectivity, the dialogue with supporters is so integral. I want to make sure we are taking informed decisions based on supporters’ views. That means putting in a number of mechanisms that allow us to engage with supporters.

“Every quarter, we will host a fans’ forum. We’re also looking to create a fan advisory board with a number of representatives from different supporters’ groups because different groups have different interests and live in different parts of the world. We want to make sure we have a representative from across those demographics and make sure they have a mechanism to have dialogue with the club.

“That has to be a future part of how this board engage externally.”

Who will have the final decision on fans’ views?

“There will be moments where the club has to take a decision that not every supporter will agree with, I’m not sure that is even possible because of the different perspectives. As a minimum, the club should communicate and articulate why they’re taking key decisions.

“Before getting to a key decision, the board want to make sure we consult. Whether it be stadium expansion, safe-standing, matchday experience, we’re taking those decisions for our supporters, it’s right they have a stake in that. This week I met with different supporter groups. It’s going to be a key focus in my role but also the team around me.”

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